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Your friends envy you when you tell them your doctor wants you to add pounds, but you may have already learned the hard truth: It's trickier than it sounds. Especially if you want to do it the healthy way.

"You can't just throw high-calorie junk foods into your diet," says Kim Larson, a dietitian in Seattle. You want to eat stuff with lots of calories, of course, but they've got to have nutrients, too.

With a little patience, though, you can cross the finish line. Just don't expect to reach your daily goal of calories right away. You'll most likely have to build up to that slowly.

Michael Basham, a retired professor and psychologist from Boulder, CO, discovered that firsthand. He's trying to gain the 30 pounds he lost while he recovered from complications of back surgery.

So far, he's 10 pounds away from his goal of 175. "I try to eat as much as I can tolerate every day," he says. "It was difficult for me to eat so much at first."

Larson says there's nothing wrong with the go-slow approach. "Gradually, over a few weeks, we have to increase the amount of food that the gut is able to handle," she says.

Say Good-bye to Low-Cal

Your first step to put on the pounds: Swap out the foods you already eat for higher-calorie versions.

Get rid of anything that's "fat free," Larson says. Make your own salad dressing with healthy oils, rather than buying them ready-made.

Bid farewell to products that have "light," "diet" and "low-cal" on the label. Eat higher-calorie breads, and choose bagels over toast or English muffins.

"Make sure that your cereal has at least 200 calories per cup," Farrell says. "Go for granola or muesli."

Also put fatty fish, like salmon, on your dinner menu. It's higher in calories and has healthy omega-3 fatty acids.

Eat desserts that have a lot of nutrients, like frozen yogurt, oatmeal cookies, zucchini bread, and pumpkin pie.

Review your fridge and cabinet, and track your eating for a few days to see what else can be replaced with high-calorie options.

"Being from Boulder, Colorado, one of the healthiest cities in America, it was hard to switch from sugar-free and fat-free products to sugar in my sweet tea and whole milk on my cereal," Basham says.

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